• Alistair Tait

Seve’s miracle shot lost in mists of golf time

Golf needs more plaques to honour the greatest shots ever played. PGA National should have one on its 18th hole to celebrate arguably the greatest shot seen in a Ryder Cup.

There are too few plaques in my opinion. The one pictured celebrates a shot Arnold Palmer played at Royal Birkdale en route to winning the 1961 Open Championship. Royal Lytham has one beside its 17 hole to remember Bobby Jones hitting a mashie to the 17th green during the 1926 Open, which he went on to win.

I doubt these two shots were nowhere near as good as the one Seve hit at the 18th hole during the 1983 Ryder Cup on the Champion Golf Course at PGA National Resort & Spa, venue for this week’s Honda Classic. Yet there is nothing to commemorate that shot. Worse, no television footage exists of it.

Seve hit a 3-wood out of bunker in singles play to earn a half point with Fuzzy Zoeller. Those that were there say it was a shot only Seve could’ve pulled off.

Ballesteros was level with Zoeller when he reached the 578 yard par 5 18th tee. He hit what he called one of the worst tee shots of his life, a hook into deep rough. All he could do for his second was try to hack the ball back to the fairway. He only advanced it 20 yards into a bunker 250 yards from the flag. Worse, it was on the upslope of the bunker. ABC TV commentator Ed Sneed said the following when asked what Seve’s options were.

“I think he’s just going to take a 6 or 7-iron and hit it out.”

Seve had other ideas. He pulled 3-wood. Here’s how the late David Davies, golf writer for the Guardian, described the shot.

“Standing no more than 15 yards away, I was at a loss to see what he was doing. The ball was halfway up the face of the bunker and would obviously have to be knocked out with a short iron. Seve took his stance and it dawned that he was actually going to play the shot with a 3-wood. It seemed suicidal, a total waste of time, almost signalling that he was fed up with the whole affair.”
“He swung, he hit, he gave the ball that incredible Seve stare and it flew miles and miles right to the fringe of the green. It was an impossible shot, and it was greeted firstly with a stunned silence, and then by incredulous laughter that greets something that is outwith the experience of the watcher. It was, in the literal sense of the word, fantastic.”

Seve halved the hole with Zoeller and his match. Ken Brown was on that European Ryder Cup team and still marvels at Seve’s shot. Here’s his description.

I first went to PGA National 15 years ago and went looking for the bunker Seve hit out of. Sadly, it no longer exists since the course has been changed. I expected a plaque, something to commemorate that shot. There was nothing. It was as if the shot had never been hit.

Golf needs more plaques like the ones at Birkdale, Lytham, the one at Merion to celebrate Ben Hogan’s 1-iron to the 18th green in the final round of the 1950 U.S. Open. I’d start with one on the 18th at PGA National to celebrate probably the greatest shot ever hit in the Ryder Cup.

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